About a year ago I did something that I hadn’t done before. I came back to work at an organization I had left at the end of 2007 — The Center for Community Solutions. I was fortunate enough to return as the President and Executive Director. During my previous time at CCS, I had worked on many policy/advocacy issues related to the local implementation of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, more popularly known as “welfare reform.” Some of the advocacy work we did was successful, but on some of the larger issues like time limits for cash assistance, we weren’t successful.
Since being back at CCS, I have had a few Aha! moments. One of them was while I was at a meeting with Cuyahoga County officials and it was reported that there were approximately 1,500 adults remaining on the caseload of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. I was stunned because, when I had left Community Solutions towards the end of the last decade, there were 10 times that many people on the caseload. Some of them have been forced from the rolls by Ohio’s three-year time limit, while likely an equal number got tossed from the program after being sanctioned for various infractions. States became more likely to sanction after changes in federal TANF rules had the effect of requiring larger numbers of recipients to be working 20-30 hours a week.